MOMO: The Missouri Monster

The strange and unexplained has fascinated man kind since the time of early man, and has sparked investigations for centuries. But in the past fifty or so years these topics have never received more attention. Bigfoot leaped into the public’s collective conscious with the release of the iconic Patterson–Gimlin Bigfoot footage in 1967, and since then countless books, television series and documentaries have been made on this and other similar subjects.

People have take up Cryptozoology as both a hobby and a career, exploring these legends and myths to find their truth and share it with the world. And this is were I introduce Small Town Monsters. A small group of investigative documentary filmmakers who delve into just this type cryptid American history.

Their first, "Minerva Monster" from 2015, takes a look at a series of encounters with a reclusive Big Foot like creature that plagued an Ohio town in the ‘70s. There have been several more films from Small Town Monsters since the "Minerva Monster" and even more in the works.

Their most recent, "Momo: The Missouri Monster", follows the encounters with a cryptid by the people who lived in and around the town of Louisianan, Missouri in the 1970s. Through historical records and interviews with witnesses and town residents, the film delves into the sightings and interactions with the creature known as Momo – an extremely large and powerful, hair covered woodland creature.

This time around Small Town Monsters uses "Momo" to treat lovers of these monster legends, as well as horror fans by combining the real life account of Momo with and all the schlock aesthetics of the 70’s drive-in movie going experience.

The film is introduced by Lyle Blackburn, who plays the host of “Blackburn’s Cryptid Casefiles”. The inspiration of which comes from the long tradition of late night horror hosts that were ever popular in the 1970s and ‘80.

The pretense here is that the viewers of "Momo: The Missouri Monster" are actually watching a television show that airs monster movies exclusively. Our host, Blackburn, has tracked down the completed, but never released creature feature of the same name which is based on the real life Momo monster legend. It isn’t as confusing as it sounds.

The film unfolds giving chronological accounts of the various Momo sighting and encounters with people seeing a tall hairy creature near the edge of their rural property, or in the woods while hunting. Inevitably these encounters, and the fear shared by the town, escalate and eventually a gun toting mob venture into the woods to find and hunt the beast.

As it turns out, the hunters never quite found what they’re looking for. As the climax of the film approaches, a strange twist occurs which blends phenomena. Suggesting that these reclusive Big Foot like creatures might just have a connection to UFOs. This might seem like a stretch, used to sensationalize the docu-drama, but in fact this notion is a recurring one found in these contemporary legends. So, beyond Momo, there very well could be something to this union of Big Foot and UFO sightings.

As "Momo: The Missouri Monster" explores these real life monster encounters, it also alternates from real documentary interviews, to Blackburn discussing the legend and finally, scenes from “the movie”.

These “scenes” ape the aesthetic of the now famous "The Legend of Boggy Creek", which was a docu-drama from the 1972 that told the tale of a similar hairy bipedal monster attack from the ‘50s in Fouke, Arkansas.

These portions of "Momo" come complete with bad acting and scratches on the film to give it that authentic drive-in look and feel.

I would worry that the schlock aesthetic of the "Momo" reenactments might do harm to the reputation of serious investigative work being done my passionate cryptid researchers. However Small Town Monsters, director Seth Breedlove and “Blackburn’s Cryptid Casefiles” host/narrator Lyle Blackburn have paid their dues over the years as they themselves have investigated the history of many of these creature encounters. And to be honest, there is a certain amount of cross over among fans of monster fiction and those who are curious of the genuine unknown.

To prove this point, in 2017 Blackburn appeared as a guest on Shudder’s "The Last Drive-In" marathon where he was interviewed by Joe Bob Briggs about Big Foot and the true life monster encounters that took place in Fouke, Arkansas, which later becoming the basis for "The Legend at Boggy Creek". He helped Joe Bob share facts about the encounters and about "Boggy Creek" during the interstitial segments of the film, adding credibility to the legend as well as showing his appreciation for the mediocre ‘70 drive-in docu-drama.

As for the reenactments themselves, I have mixed feelings about them. I personally have always been fascinated by Big Foot, which Momo seems to be akin to, and obviously I have an affinity to horror movies and creature features so these intentionally retro/b-movie segments are a lot of fun. But they also work to slow the film down and make them feel like filler. While these "Boggy Creek" docu-drama portions, or reenactments as I’ve called them, give "Momo" some personality, I would just the same watch a much shorter and condensed version of the film without them. Perhaps the legend of Momo wasn’t enough to fill the run time of a feature film, or maybe the people of Small Town Monsters just wanted to do something a little different. To have a little fun with it, and I appreciate that.

"Momo: The Missouri Monster" is another fascinating documentary from Small Town Monsters, not too unlike their previous films. With each of them, the production values and technical elements are very professional. The acting through the dramatized portions is hit or miss and you can tell there are several characters being portrayed by non-actors, but this also plays better into the b-movie look and feel. In fact, some of the acting is too good to be bad and too bad to be good. Make of that what you will.

As for the subject matter, it isn’t for everyone. People who are interested in these type of legends will eat it up, but I don’t think "Momo" will convert any new believers. With that said, "Momo: The Missouri Monster" is an informative and fun look at a towns reaction to something a little scary that can’t be explained.

One thing that has always fascinated me about tales of monsters, the supernatural and conspiracies is how they and movies seem to echo one another. Are the true life experiences of people then adapted into fiction, or are these people knowingly, or unknowingly, influenced by the media they take in? How many people thought they saw a creature or lights in the sky but were mistaken - influenced only by the premiere of "V", or John Carpenter’s "They Live"? What is real? Can we know? At the very least, I hope we keep encountering these things because it sure makes being alive that much more interesting.

Deep down I think that is what Small Town Monsters were going for with "Momo". If these creatures aren’t real, surely the persistence of these legends in our society may just be a self-perpetuating experience handed down from generation to generation. Instead of cave paintings or an oral history, we now have the internet and drive-in movies.

Other Small Town Monsters documentaries are available on Amazon Prime, with "Momo: The Missouri Monster" being released on September 20th on VOD and DVD with a special 51MIN making of featurette.

And if you can’t get enough Momo, make sure to check out the Small Town Monsters website, as well as their official podcast Monsteropolis. Episodes 43-45 are each about Momo, and the filmmaking experience surrounding it.


★ ★ ★

"The hair-covered, three-toed monstrosity was said to have prowled the forests of "Star Hill" near Louisiana, Missouri during the summer of 1972 where it was seen by terrified citizens for weeks. "